Recently, the Russian government news agency RIA Novosti published an interview with Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeev) of the Russian Orthodox Church. The lion’s share was dedicated to the notorious document issued by the Biblical and Theological Commission of the Moscow Patriarchate “On the distortion of the Orthodox teaching about the Church in the actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the speeches of its representatives.”
In particular, Alfeev talked about the prerequisites for drafting the paper, the preparation process and future prospects of the document. Thus, according to the hierarch, the idea to create the document was conceived immediately after the so-called “invasion of the Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew into Ukraine and the legalization of the Ukrainian split in 2018.” Its author was personally the head of the ROC, Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev. Actually, it was he who entrusted the said commission with its drafting.
To this end, as Hilarion says, the statements of “Constantinople hierarchs, their supporters and opponents” had been collected on 150 pages. The abbreviated version of this amendment was first approved by the plenum of the commission, and later Gundyaev himself made his amendments.
Next, the text had to be considered and approved by the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church. However, as Hilarion himself notes, such a Council was initially postponed due to a difficult “epidemiological, and then international situation.” Therefore, in the end of the day, it was decided to test it at the recent bishops’ meeting, which approved it. However, Alfeev himself admits that this approval has no canonical force, just like the bishops’ meeting as such.
“Formally, the document has the status of the once approved by the Conference of Bishops. The Bishops’ Conference is not a governing body of the Church. And therefore the text must be approved by the Holy Synod, and then, like all acts of the Synod, by the Council of Bishops,” explained Hilarion. However, in his own opinion, despite its “formal” approval and the need for approval by the Synod and the Council, this text has the status of an official document of the Russian Orthodox Church, because it is published on the website of the Moscow Patriarchate. As we can see, even the author himself does not fully understand the status of his work. Such a sly play of words on the part of the metropolitan only once again confirms all the shortcomings of the mentioned text, which is allegedly both formal and allegedly official.
According to the metropolitan, the ROC plans to translate this entire undefined text into other languages and “officially send it to the Local Orthodox Churches across the world.” This is due to the fact that “not everyone or not always is aware why Moscow does not agree with Constantinople on certain issues.”
However, as follows from the same interview, this document was inked not simply to clarify the position, but also to accuse Constantinople of heresy, that is, the desire to establish power in the Orthodox Church, like the Pope in the Catholic Church. To the question of whether the text will be the basis for the council’s recognition of Patriarch Bartholomew as a schismatic or a heretic provoking a schism, Hilarion did not give a clear answer, leaving it to the discretion of “church hierarchies.”
It is also unclear when exactly the text will be circulated around the world after it is approved by the Synod or Council. However, the Council itself will not meet any time soon. At least this conclusion can be drawn from Hilarion’s words as he rejects the holding of such a meeting in a neutral location, in particular at his own platform in Budapest, rather than in Moscow.
As Alfeev explained, his “diocese is not capable of organizing such an event”, and it will be a costly stunt for the Russian bishops to get to Hungary. After all, moving from Budapest to Moscow, via Istanbul, cost Hilarion EUR 4,000. “At such air ticket prices, it is difficult or even impossible for some bishops to come either from far abroad to Russia, or from Russia to far abroad,” the metropolitan explained.
This seemingly insignificant detail, about the impossibility of convening the Synod of Bishops, due to economic or other reasons, once again points to the weakness of the Moscow Patriarchate. How can ecclesiastical Moscow convene the All-Orthodox Council if it is unable to even organize its own bishop’s council? It is natural that any statements about the organization of such a meeting are pure nonsense. And to approach such an ephemeral meeting with a document of uncertain status, or at least to spread it around the world, will only disgrace the Russian church in the world arena and will certainly lead to a fatal defeat.
Spiritual Front of Ukraine